The University of Michigan Athletics announced a department-wide 14-day pause in activity on Saturday night. No games, no practices. Nothing. This decision was made due to concerns over the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant, which has made its way to the Ann Arbor community, and has led to at least five student-athletes testing positive for this strain.
A lot of Michigan’s sports programs have been impacted by this pause; men’s and women’s basketball, to wrestling, swimming, volleyball, hockey, and beyond.
In light of the news and with events and games being cancelled/postponed due to the stoppage, Michigan athletes made their desire and thoughts about the situation known. They want to play. A joint statement from U-M student athletes was released via social media by wrester Myles Amine.
Statement from ‘Coalition of Student-Athletes’:
“The student-athletes at the University of Michigan recognize the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and have done everything in our control to prevent the spread of this virus to the best of our ability. Recently, 5 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 strain have been found in the athletic department, which has triggered a shutdown of all athletic-related activity and the closure of all athletic facilities by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Health Department. While we, the student-athletes at the University of Michigan, understand the severity of this virus and take it very seriously, we believe that this mandate from the MDHHS is unnecessary and should not only be reconsidered, but overturned.
We trust the guidance and leadership of those in charge of the health and safety of Michigan student-athletes. Given the University’s knowledge of the situation surrounding the athletic department, should a total shutdown have been necessary, it should have come from the University of Michigan leaders. Being members of both the Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County communities is something that the student-athletes at the University of Michigan value and cherish. We have done everything to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to the greater community at large, in order to protect those who support us. The student-athletes at the University of Michigan have done their best to create social bubbles in order to limit exposure and have opted in for extensive testing protocols in order to compete in the safest manner possible. The physical and mental health of every Michigan student-athlete is at risk due to the recent mandate set in place.
Based on the department’s testing policies, placing healthy students in quarantine is unnecessary and excessive. Placing the entirety of student-athletes in a mandated quarantine, instead of working it on a team by team basis, is unfair to the athletes who have followed all protocols necessary to compete and have had no contact with the confirmed cases. These student-athletes have gone above and beyond in order to earn the right to have a season in the midst of a pandemic. We believe that it is simply illogical to mandate a quarantine for the student-athletes given that at this point there are no extra recommended mitigation strategies outside of what athletes have already been in compliance with (masking up, social distancing, inner bubbles, etc.). The student-athletes at the University of Michigan stand united in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping every member of our community safe. We are asking the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider the blanket shutdown implemented on January 24th, and allow all the student-athletes that are healthy to return to all athletic-related activities.”
The statement from the athletes lays out clear what they want. They want to play, and they realize who is in charge of whether this pause is lifted or not. Per Mlive’s Ryan Zuke, the Michigan Department of Health and Human services did not order Michigan to shut down athletics for two weeks. MDHHS sent a memo with recommendations, and the university acted on them. In Michigan’s statement on the 14-day pause, the phrasing seemed to indicate that MDHHS was who made the decision for the university. “Under a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) decision made Saturday (Jan. 23), the University of Michigan Athletic Department will immediately pause athletic activities in all sports, including games, team and individual training sessions, until further notice and up to 14 days,” the statement read.
“The physical and mental health of every Michigan student-athlete is at risk due to the recent mandate set in place,” the statement read. It’s clear the athletes feel comfortable with the protocols put in place and the testing apparatus they’re a part of. Whether this letter sways public sentiment and the mind of those in charge remains to be seen. This is a powerful letter and respectful pushback from players who have made major sacrifices to play this season. And they feel their season potentially slipping away.